What If Words Were Banned?

What if you were told you couldn’t talk for the next 30…60…90 days or longer? Or that you were at least severely limited in what you could say? Would you be willing to do it, if it was preparation for something that might usher in a whole new chapter in your life? Or if it would help you get unstuck from your current life circumstances?

It would mean no trash talking about your favorite team or kvetching about your boss. No yelling at the kids. No bragging about where you’ve been or what you’ve done. Not even grandiose or overwrought expressions of love. You’d have to find a non-verbal way to show your affection. What would it take to get you onboard?

Unfortunately, quiet and fewer words doesn’t get much respect in our culture. We have to be instructed to be quiet in theaters, libraries, and hospitals. Parents must order a timeout for their children.

Even the Securities and Exchange Commission prescribes a “quiet period” for privately held companies who register their intent to go public with an IPO (initial public offering). For several days before and after the first day of public trading, key players in the stock offering are severely restricted in what they can say about the company. The point is to protect investors from artificially inflated stock prices that have been hyped by grandiose company projections in advance of the stock launch.

Even though the rules for the “quiet period” have relaxed in recent years, it’s still universally hated. Apparently, no one likes to be told they can’t talk or that they must say less.

King Solomon, often called one of the wisest men who ever lived, wrote in Ecclesiastes 3 that there’s a time for everything, including “a time to be silent and a time to speak.” It doesn’t mean you drop out of your life and join a monastery. But there may be seasons when it’s appropriate to reign in the words.

We treat our journey through life as if it’s “The Amazing Race.” We run at Mach 1, certain that the slightest pause will cause us to lose the prize at the end. There is constant drama, action, high emotion, competition, putting ourselves in harm’s way to win.…and always lots and lots of words.

We act as if every ounce of air must be populated with as much blah blah blah as possible to maintain our forward momentum.

I have a painful memory of such a time in my own life. My prayers became more shrill and God felt more distant. I felt so frustrated at one point I said, “Are you listening, God?” The answer came back clearly in my spirit, “Oh, I’m listening. I’ve heard it all. Would you like to listen for a while?” Embarrassing.

Now I try to pay attention to those seasons when there need to be fewer words. Life still goes on. But it’s a time to give God extra space, so he can clear the deck of those parts of me that don’t fit anymore (like “shoulds” and “oughts” that weren’t his idea in the first place). And he has my full attention, so he can prepare me for the rest of the journey.

Does it all sound like too much mumbo jumbo? Try it. Talk less. Listen more. Build some unstructured time into your life to get alone with God. Tell him it feels awkward and you’re not sure how this whole quiet thing works. He’ll take it from there.

This entry was posted in Our speech, Renewal, The Wilderness and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to What If Words Were Banned?

  1. Helena says:

    Wonderful post Verla…I’m going to make it a point to talk less and listen more to those I encounter today! 🙂

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